An 18-foot replica of Donald Trump’s border wall has been scaled in a matter of seconds by novice climbers, an eight-year-old girl and a man who returned for another attempt while juggling with one hand.
The US president described his wall as “virtually impenetrable” during a trip to the US-Mexico border in September, claiming 20 “world class” mountain climbers had told him his chosen prototype was difficult to climb.
“We had 20 mountain climbers. That’s all they do, they love to climb mountains … some of them were champions,” Mr Trump said. “And we gave them different prototypes of walls, and this was the one that was hardest to climb … this wall can’t be climbed.”
His remarks were taken as a challenge by 75-year-old Rick Weber, co-founder of Muir Valley, a rock climbing park and nature reserve in Kentucky.
“You don’t tell a bona fide rock climber something’s impossible to climb,” he told Time magazine.
Mr Weber, a retired engineer, decided to build a replica of Mr Trump’s wall using official dimensions and recent images of the structure.
He wrote in to popular climbing magazine Rock & Ice to announce a climbing competition on 11 and 12 October to coincide with Rocktoberfest, one of the largest annual gatherings of climbers in the US.
“No one in our climbing community knows any of these 20 mountaineers. I doubt if they exist,” he wrote. “More importantly, to declare something to be impossible to climb to a bona fide rock climber is to issue a challenge.
“So, I decided to build an exact replica and hold a competition.”
Ahead of the official competition, several people had already managed to climb the wall.
Among these was eight-year-old Lucy Hancock, who climbed the replica using a belay – a rope that acts as a safety measure, rather than an aid. Footage showed her scaling the majority of the wall in little more than a minute.
Erik Kloeker, a 29-year-old climbing guide and property manager at Muir Valley who told The Courier Journal he had been climbing for nine years, climbed the structure in about 30 seconds in a demonstration.
“The border wall that they’re building could be climbed pretty easily,” said Mr Kloeker, who juggled several items in one hand during repeat attempts.
Mr Trump’s border wall is being built at heights of 18-feet and 30-feet, consisting of singular pillars and a larger panel along the top.
Mr Weber told Time that as the large top panel is the same size, a climber who manages to ascend pillars of the 18-foot version would have no difficulty scaling the additional distance.
He decided to allow climbers to hold on to the side of the top panel, as he claimed such gaps existed between each section of wall in the real designs.
The retired engineer said a wall without pillars would be far more difficult to climb.
“I’m not making an argument that we shouldn’t have a secure border. I’m not doing that at all,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is to make sure that we’re not blowing a lot of money on some silly nonsense of putting up something that he thinks can’t be climbed. Because it can. And will be.”
During his September visit to the San Diego border, Mr Trump claimed hopeful climbers would “have to bring hoses and waters [sic]” to combat the large top panel of the design, which he said was designed to absorb enough heat to “fry an egg”.
Mr Trump recently denied making enquiries about creating a moat filled with alligators and snakes along the border.
Despite campaigning on the promise that Mexico would pay for the structure, the Defence Department has been forced to divert some $3.6bn in military funding.
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